This week is the two-year anniversary of the signing of the historic Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with Sudan and Morocco soon joining the circle of peace as well.
In the past two years, the countries have signed mammoth bilateral trade agreements, launched direct flights between the countries and at least one has even inked a security memorandum of understanding.
UAE-Israeli Ties Reflect a Warm Peace
Earlier this year, Israel signed an historic first-ever trade deal with the UAE, with the stated goal of increasing annual bilateral trade to more than $10 billion over the next five years.
The agreement signed on May 31, 2022 includes a customs exemption “immediately or gradually on 98 percent of trade between the countries: food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical equipment, medication and more.”
In 2020, Israel exported $58.8 million in products to the UAE, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). The top exports to the Gulf country from Israel were diamonds, telephones, and gas turbines.
The UAE exported $120 million to Israel in 2020, with the main exports including diamonds, broadcasting equipment and “other oily seeds,” according to the report.
One year later, Israeli exports to the UAE reached $384.47 million, and UAE exports to Israel reached $885 million, according to the Israeli government.
Bahrain-Israel Economic Ties Steadily Strengthening
Israeli trade with Bahrain is similarly moving along.
According to a report published by Trading Economics, quoting the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Bahrain imported $72,000 in beauty products, medical instruments, and jewelry from Israel in 2020.
By 2021, that volume increased exponentially to $3.81 million. Israel exported precious stones and metals, chemical products, machinery, electrical/electronic equipment, perfumes, cosmetics, plastics, optical and medical equipment, wood, beverages, books, soaps and more – much more.
Bahraini exports to Israel likewise reached $3.46 million in 2021. The imported products ran the gamut from mineral fuels, metals, edibles, live animals, glass, precious stones and metals, furniture, apparel, machinery, and much more.
In 2021, a joint military drill was held in the Red Sea between the US, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain – a prospect that was unthinkable just a few years ago. But maritime security in the face of aggressors like Iran is a mutual concern.
Although a recent Washington Institute survey showed the public in both Bahrain and the UAE still opposes the warm relations being developed. But their leadership is having none of it, and when Israelis return from tourist trips to the two Gulf states, thus far no one has reported any negative or unpleasant interactions with members of the Gulf public.
Sudan-Israel Ties on Hold
The third signatory, Sudan, has a long and illustrious history of hostility towards the Jewish State that was essentially upended by the country’s participation in the Abraham Accords.
Six months after Sudan signed the document, the country quietly abolished a 1958 law prohibited the establishment of diplomatic tie with Israel, outlawing business with Israeli citizens as well.
Nevertheless, nearly a year after inking the agreement, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi said in an interview in The National that there was “not any sign of normalization with Israel,” noting that abolition of the anti-Israel boycott “does not mean that we consider opening an Israeli embassy in Khartoum.”
Because government of the country had not yet been established following a military coup, the normalization agreement with Israel has yet to be formally approved by Sudan’s parliament, which was dissolved in the coup and still does not exist.
According to the Israel Policy Forum, “the process of normalization between Israel and Sudan continued, albeit at a much slower and less public rate than that of the other three Abraham Accords countries, and without the establishment of formal political ties. Security, agricultural, and technological cooperation between the two nations has ensued, and several meetings have taken place between intelligence officials in both countries. However, other than a few small meetings between officials, such as the meeting between Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll in Dubai last October, political relations between the two nations have remained relatively stagnant.”
Unlike Sudan, Israeli relations with the fourth signatory of the Accords – Morocco – are brisk and warm.
According to data from the Israel Export Institute based on information from the Central Bureau of Statistics (according to source country), in 2021 the export of goods from Israel to Morocco spiked by about 214% compared to 2020, or around $12 million. Exported products included vehicles, aircraft and ships as well as transport equipment, plastic, rubber and their products, industrial chemical products, machines, electrical equipment, audio and video technology.
In 2020, Morocco exported $9.76 million in goods to Israel, including “other processed vegetables,” processed fish and surprisingly, beer. That same year, Israel exported $11.2 million in products to Morocco, including planes, helicopters and spacecraft, ethylene polymers and centrifuges.
In 2021, the import of goods to Israel from Morocco stood at $57 million, “a fall of about 15 percent relative to 2020, in which imports from Morocco valued around $67 million,” according to Ohad Cohen, director of Israel’s Foreign Trade Administration. Moroccan exports to Israel included car accessories, textiles and textile products, olives, canned fish and curiously, pasta.
The above figures differ from those of the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, which indicate that imported goods to Israel from Morocco reached $117.11 million last year.
According to the UN COMTRADE database, Israeli exports to Morocco in 2021 reached $30.72 million.
Economic ties between Israel and Morocco are growing; this past March, a delegation from Rabat that included some 80 heads of leading Moroccan companies visited the Jewish State to discuss future steps.
“Morocco and Israel, two of the most prosperous and dynamic economies in their regions, today share a clear and strong strategic vision to increase the volume of trade and investment, to improve our mutual approach to the markets, and to lead towards shared social and economic growth,” Chakib ALJ, President of the General Council of Moroccan Factories said at the conference.
“The bilateral partnership has led to unprecedented developments in sectors of mutual interest, such as tourism, health, agriculture, water, industry, education, and technology, and the goal is to increase trade to 500 million dollars,” he said.
Of all the signatories to the Abraham Accords, Israel enjoys the strongest security ties with Morocco.
In November 2021, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding cementing defense and military cooperation between their two defense establishments.
In February 2022, the Globes business news site reported that Israel Aerospace Industries had signed a $500 million contract to sell Morocco the Barak air and missile defense system, although the sale was not confirmed by either country, or by the company.
In July 2022, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi traveled to Morocco for a three-day visit to meet with Moroccan Defense Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi, Chief of the Royal Armed Forces Belkhir El-Farouk and other defense and security officials. Among other issues, the talks were aimed at deepening military and intelligence cooperation between the two nations.
Abraham Accords Tourism
Nothing indicates peace as much as strong tourism – the sight of Israelis flying directly to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco — and their citizens likewise flying directly to the Jewish State.
Nonstop flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai resumed this past March after a brief dispute over security arrangements at the UAE Airport in Dubai.
Israel and the UAE agreed in October 2020 to enable 28 weekly flights between the two countries, in addition to 10 weekly cargo flights. Charter flight authorizations between the UAE and Israel’s Ramon Airport near Eilat are unlimited.
As of June, Emirates, El Al Airlines, Etihad, Gulf Air, Royal Jordanian, Turkish Airlines and more are flying back and forth on direct routes from Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The first direct flight of Bahrain’s Gulf Air national carrier arrived from Manama at Ben Gurion International Airport a year ago – in September 2021.
“We are delighted to announce the launch of our Bahrain-Tel Aviv route as part of the historic Bahraini-Israeli relations,” Gulf Air Acting CEO Capt. Waleed Al-Alawi said.
“As the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, we take great pride in supporting our leadership and the Kingdom in their role of preserving peace and prosperity in the region. We hope this is merely the beginning of developing further opportunities.”
Flights depart Tel Aviv for Manama three times a week at present, with routes flown by Gulf Air, El Al Airlines, EgyptAir, Emirates, Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Fly Dubai and more.
In July 2021, Israel national carrier, El Al Airlines, was joined by the smaller Israir in launching direct flights to Marrakesh, Morocco.
At present, there are flights from Tel Aviv to Marrakesh, Tanier, Rabat, Agadir, Fes, Casablanca and more. The routes are flown by Royal Air Maroc, El Al Airlines, Emirates, Turkish Airlines and more.
Tourism figures have yet to be calculated.